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Fake papers could thwart airline

chperplt

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Fake papers could thwart airline

Pan Am Clipper Connection arrived at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport last month with a handful of flights and big promises for the future.

But the tiny airline's expansion plans, perhaps even its existence, could be in jeopardy after disclosures that the parent company's top lawyer filed false financial statements to the Department of Transportation.

This week, Boston-Maine Airways Corp. of Portsmouth, N.H., wrote the agency that former general counsel John Nadolny "apparently altered" a bank statement filed in May to verify the amount of working capital the company had available.

Nadolny resigned June 3 after admitting responsibility for another fake document: a bond that guaranteed payment of a $320,000 lawsuit settlement to the union representing several former pilots. Great American Insurance Co. denied issuing the bond.

The Transportation Department routinely monitors airline finances to ensure commercial carriers are fit to fly.

Disclosure of the phony bond prompted the agency to ask Boston-Maine last week to explain how it happened and what kind of oversight the company exercises over management.

Officials will respond to news of the false financial statements in writing "within the next few business days," said Kim Riddle, a Transportation Department spokeswoman.

The Air Line Pilots Association, which has repeatedly battled the company on labor issues, filed a request with the Transportation Department in December to revoke Boston-Maine's operating certificate.

Recent disclosures reinforce the union's position that company executives follow a pattern of not complying with federal and state regulations, said union spokesman John Mazor.

"The fact that they'd falsify (federal government) filings tell us these are people who think they're not bound by the rules the rest of us play by," he said. "They should be shut down."

Boston-Maine president David Fink said Friday the union is simply finding another venue to strike back at the airline.

The false filings were the fault of an executive gone bad, not the entire company management, he said.

"We had a thief amongst us," Fink said.

Boston-Maine operates flights under the Pan Am name, flying three Boeing 727 jets and 13 small turboprop planes.

The company has applied to add four 727s and fly the large jets from U.S. cities to destinations in the Caribbean and Central America, a request the pilots union opposes.

Pan American Airways, an affiliate of Boston-Maine, bought the venerable name from a company that acquired it from the original, globe-spanning carrier in bankruptcy court in 1991.

The airline came to St. Petersburg-Clearwater International in December 2001 but stayed less than a year. It returned as Pan Am Clipper Connection in June and has seven weekly departures - four to Columbus, Ohio; two to Newburgh, N.Y.; and one to Sanford, outside Orlando.

At the local launch, Fink said the airline would fly from St. Petersburg-Clearwater International to San Juan and Aguadilla in Puerto Rico and to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic this year. On Friday, he mentioned only a possible new flight to Youngstown, Ohio.

The local airport lost its two dominant carriers when Southeast Airlines closed in November and ATA Airlines pulled out in April. From a record 1.33-million passengers in 2004, traffic is expected to drop 60 percent to around 600,000 this year, said airport director Noah Lagos.
 
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